Minister of Environmental Affairs on her Department's Budget


15 Apr 2010

Minister Buyelwa Sonjica briefed the media on the key areas of the budget vote speech as delivered in the National Assembly.


Q: A Presidential Proclamation stated that 80% of the Fisheries function was being transferred, but Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson stated that she was receiving 100% of the function. Who is getting the function? The Minister said that the Proclamation on the transfer presented the Department with the opportunity to improve ocean governance. How so? By losing control of it?

A: The Minister replied that she could not answer for Minister Joemat-Pettersson. There was a Proclamation in place that government had been implementing since 1 April 2010. The Minister had not been informed of any changes to the Proclamation. The Department was putting together a Memorandum of Agreement to cover the areas that they still needed to cooperate with. For example, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) was still dependent on the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) for its IT system and DEAT was still dependent on DAFF for vessels that helped them pursue their research on biodiversity and ecosystem activity.
Q: You mentioned in the House that we were going to lose 163 rhinos by the end of the financial year. 55 have been lost already. The Minister also made reference to a sophisticated mafia that is behind the poaching. Where does this mafia come from? Are there any special security operations in place?

A: The Minister replied that the mafia was from Asia.

Mr Fundisile Mketeni, Deputy Director-General: Biodiversity and Conservation, concurred that the Department had projected that 163 rhinos would be killed given the trends that were taken note of in 2006. During this time, the hot spots were around the Kruger National Park and Kwazulu-Natal. Now the mafia was operating in other provinces. They infiltrated the North West and the Eastern Cape in 2009. He knew the names of the people who were involved but did not want to release their names. The mafia operated at five levels and the Department was also going to do so. Level one was when the mafia went to the parks themselves. They then used some of the Department's own staff as sharp shooters. The second level was when the mafia approached people that lived in communities near the parks. They offered these people money to shoot the animals. The mafia also operated from cities such as Johannesburg and deployed sharp shooters to the parks who would be the rhino horns to them. The syndicates were spread right across the whole country. The Department's aim was to close gaps and block hot spots, and to ensure there was proper patrolling and collection of data.

Q: When will the National Wildlife Reaction Unit (NWRU) be put in place?

A: The Minister stated that there was no date on which the Unit would be set up. However, the organogram of the NWRU had been presented to her and she was happy with what had been established.

Q: Have you arrested any of the Parks' staff for assisting poachers?

A: Mr Mketeni replied that they had. There were staff members currently behind bars. He did not have the specifics of the people that were in jail.

Q: Could the Minister or the Department name the countries they were going to be engaging with to resolve the poaching problem?

A: Mr Mketeni replied that they would be talking to countries in Far East Asia.

A: The Minister answered that Interpol was also involved in the investigations.

Q: What is the R400 million for Eco-Towns supposed to do that municipalities usually do?

A: The Minister replied that she had observed that rural and poor municipalities with low revenue bases had problems with cleaning and “greening” the areas they were in charge of. The state of the towns, in terms of waste management, did not really look good. The Department then decided to partner with these municipalities that were inadequate to give them the funding and resources that they needed. The Department was looking at greening and cleaning these towns as well as developing green spaces such as parks for them. This would also create jobs for local people.

Q: What attention has been given to municipalities and where was the Department impressing focus upon eliminating waste altogether through the processes of manufacturing etc?

A: Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi replied that a lot had to be done. It was not only about the collection of waste, it was also about changing the mindset of people. Waste elimination had to be seen as an opportunity to create jobs.

Q: How much money is being set aside for the NWRU? What are the reasons for the escalation in rhino poaching?

A: The Minister replied that the Department was allocating R2 million to the Unit. It was not much but the amount would increase over time. It was just the structure that was being developed at the moment. On the second issue, she stated that there was commercial interest in rhino horn.

A: Mr Mketeni added that there were places such as Japan and China where ivory was in high demand.

Q: The Minister said that 50% of households were not serviced with regard to waste removal. What happens to this waste?

A: The Minister answered that if one went to places such as Khayelitsha, one would see waste everywhere. Nobody was really attending to it. Many poor and rural municipalities were too inadequate to deal with waste removal.

The briefing was brought to a close.




·         South Africa has been under tremendous pressure in the past two years with the rising number of rhino horns being poached in public and private protected areas. The department is establishing an interim National Wildlife Reaction Unit specifically to complement the work of the Environmental Management Inspectors commonly referred to as the Green Scorpions, aimed at responding to address broader environmental crimes and wildlife smuggling activities in South Africa.


·         We will be re-opening time-slots dedicated to the processing of environmental crimes in our existing courts. Our launch site will be the Johannesburg Regional Court in Gauteng on the 20th May 2010. Other pilot sites will include Durban Regional Court in KwaZulu-Natal, Nelspruit Regional Court in Mpumalanga and the Hermanus District Court in the Western Cape.

We will work towards the development of a National Green Economy Strategy; hence we will be hosting a Green Economy Summit


·         We will release a National Climate Change Policy and White Paper which should be concluded by the end of 2010. The policy will further build on a broad understanding of what can be done by all stakeholders to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


·         Integrated Coastal Management Act came into operation in December last year. This our first legislative instrument towards a holistic and integrated approach to the conservation and management of the South African coastline.


·         The latest Presidential Proclamation on transfer of fisheries functions from our department presented us with an opportunity to improve ocean governance.


·         Though our leadership as President of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), we were able to transform the ministerial forum into the key voice of Africa on the Environment.

·         As the Conference of Parties (CoP) President after Mexico, we will be directly involved in the attempts to advance the process towards an international climate deal.


·         The coming into effect of the Waste Management Act in July last year signalled a radical shift from the traditional waste management regime to an Act that seeks to address waste challenges.


·         We will be taking to Cabinet a policy on Free Basic Refuse Removal that seeks to extend the provision of free basic refuse removal services to indigent families in the country. This is quite significant given that almost 50% of South African households are not serviced with regard to waste removal.


·         The year 2009 saw the Air Quality Management Plan for the Vaal Triangle Air-shed Priority Area and the initiation of development of the Highveld Priority Area Air Quality Management Plan. To date with just under 30 provincial and municipal air quality management plans completed and under implementation or nearing completion.


·         R400 million for the Eco- Towns programme that we are rolling out to 10 municipalities. The project - Buyisela- is an initiative led by our department in partnership with Indalo Yethu and the Department of Water Affairs.




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